Wednesday, 9 April 2014


In the twenty-first century?

The great explosion of interest in Conductive Education in the United Kingdom in the late nineteen-eighties (that burst open the door for the internationalisation of Conductive Education across the rest of he Western world)) was no spontaneous phenomenon resulting directly from the inherent virtues of the system. There was certainly nothing inevitable that happened. What happened in the UK twenty-odd years ago was that CE was advocated and fought for, vigorously, in a variety of ways, often individually but usually within a conductive movement that saw itself primarily as political, with the aim of replacing established ways of doing things.

I was reminded about this world yesterday by a chance meeting with Frank Clark in a street in Birmingham. He told me that he is still in touch with Tom Hanley. Frank and Tom were pioneer Pető-parents, and CE-activists. Yesterday Frank took some pleasure in telling me about an escapade of Tom's last year, that was nothing to do with Conductive Education.

Later I looked for this on line, then I exerpted the following account from Tom's local newspaper, the Bolton News
BOLTON’S mayor will not apologise for throwing a member of the public out of a crunch full council meeting — despite unions contacting the borough’s solicitor.
The meeting to approve this year’s budget, council tax rise and more than £43 million worth of cuts was interrupted twice after the mayor, Cllr Guy Harkin, was forced to halt proceedings because of disruption in the public gallery.
Unions had organised a protest outside the Town Hall and some members then entered the gallery to watch the meeting. The mayor — in his ceremonial role as chairman of the meeting — began by saying disruptions would not be tolerated and that he would clear the public gallery if necessary.
A shout of 'Get on with it' led to him adjourning the meeting for five minutes.

Several minutes later, another shout saw Cllr Harkin identify the Bolton Libraries campaigner, Tom Hanley, as the alleged source — and he was told to leave. Several voices were heard to shout 'It wasn’t Tom Hanley' and, in scenes reminiscent of the film Spartacus, a woman shouted 'I’m Tom Hanley'. 
Cllr Harkin then ordered the public gallery to be cleared and police were called after two people refused to move.
Mr Hanley — who denies he was the person shouting — said he had refused to leave until he received an apology.
He was persuaded by council leader Cllr Cliff Morris, who said the Mayor would allow the public back in if he left...
Tom Hanley denied he shouted the remark. He said: 'I stayed behind to wait for an apology. I’m still waiting for an apology now.' Cllr Harkin said: 'I’ve known Tom Hanley for 55 years. I went to school with him and I know his voice. He was caught bang to rights. There’s no question of an apology'...
Civil disruption played its part in creating and maintaining media and political attention for CE in the United Kingdom in the late eighties (Frank had a penchant for chaining himself to railings, those of the Birmingham Education Office and the Spastics Society come to mind). There were other parts played too, not least politicking at national level, active media-management, and 'shotgunning' professional and academic conferences and publications. The UK was not the only country where the movement for Conductive Education operated actively on a broad front.

I do not know how many years it has been since I last heard of the use of public defiance as a tool to create public awareness of the anger and the demands of parents faced with current services for themselves and their children. This approach seems quite out of kilter with current public-relations notions in the little world of Conductive Education.

Perhaps, if parents begin to think that they have been sold a pup with the new 'special educational needs' legislation, some may eventually become angry enough for direct action again, with Conductive Education catching the new mood. Meanwhile, it is nice to see that the Old Guard is keeping its hand in, even if CE as whole is largely now depoliticised.

The wider activity of which popular (populist?) action was once but a part is no longer apparent. Conductive Education, is very rarely seen nowadays featuring in national politics, it has virtually no media-presence (other than as something looking for funds), and makes almost no appearance at all in conferences and journals other than its own.


(2013) Cllr Harkin defiant over throwing protester out of meeting, Bolton News,28 February

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